A Brief History of the Forest
The Early Years
Originally, all of the Town of Putney was land of the Sokokis and Pocumtuck people. The Forest for Learning land was wetland and upland forest. Settlers began building their homes along “The Street” (now Westminster Road) in 1764. They drained the Sacketts Brook wetland to create farmland. From 1880–1940 the Hannum family ran a dairy farm and raised hay, corn and tobacco on what would eventually become Putney Central School land.
They sold the farm in 1940 to Dr. Charles C. DeWolfe who came from Connecticut to practice medicine in Putney. Dr. DeWolfe also found time to plant white pine on the pasture land on the east side of the brook. Following his death, his widow sold the farm to the Putney School District in 1957.
This summary is based on the book Learning on the Land: A Place-Based Guide to the Putney Central School Forest (2007) by Christopher Nytch. Copies are available at the Putney Central School Library and the Putney Public Library.
A Rich History of Outdoor Education
Far-sighted action by the Putney Central School Board resulted in the preservation of this land for education and enjoyment by its students and the public. When purchasing a site for a new school building in 1957, the Board bought an entire 170-acre farm and kept all of it.
Following three sand and gravel extractions from 1959-l965 by the Town (creating the “Sand Pit”), and a largely unsuccessful logging project by the School Board in 1985, the Board’s School Forest Committee, led by teacher Anne Fines, focused forest activities on outdoor recreation and education. Anne and others raised $8,000 for the construction in 1981 of “The Portal Bridge to the Sacred Forest” which takes all safely over Sacketts Brook. In 2002 the PCS After School Forest Program began, led by Steve Anderson and Jacquie Walker. Upon their retirement, Vivian and Tom Prunier continued the program.
The school invited the Four Winds Nature Program and Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center (BEEC) programs into its curriculum to support outdoor learning, and many teachers developed their own forest programs.
With school consolidation looming in 2016-17, the Putney School Board decided to separate the school building and its grounds (now part of the Windham Southeast School District) from the Putney Central School Forest. The school also created a new non-profit to own and carry on management of the 167 acres of wetland and forest, now known as The Forest for Learning.
Forest for Learning, Inc. dedicates this forest as an educational and ecological resource for the children attending the Putney Central School, other educational institutions, and all members of the community. Its undeveloped character, history and diversity of natural plant communities and associated wildlife habitats make the forest an ideal site for an outdoor classroom, and a real-life laboratory to explore forest ecology, stewardship, and sustainability of life systems. The environmental and ecological integrity of the forest will be protected.
Donate to Support our Mission!
As a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we depend on donations to support our mission. Your generous donation helps us protect and conserve the forest, maintain safe access via trails and bridges, and foster educational programming for area students and the public.
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